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How to Choose the Right Hardwood Floor Luster

Whether you’re buying prefinished planks or finishing new hardwood planks yourself, you need to choose how they’re going to be finished. There are several different levels of luster that you can choose from. In layman’s terms, that is a determination of how shiny your floor will be. There are advantages and disadvantages to every kind of luster level. Some are easier to keep looking nice and others are more difficult, for example. Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons.

High Luster

Anything with a high luster will look very sleek and very modern. It’s a very contemporary style that wasn’t even possible in floors in decades past. The floor will look very formal as well. If you want your house to look picturesque and ornate, then a high luster floor will help you do that. It will look more like the receiving rooms and foyers of nice hotels. Those are the pros.

The cons are the upkeep. You will need to clean your high luster floors regularly because a high luster will show every scuff and scratch. That’s because high luster means that it reflects more light. Therefore, the scratch will look more dynamic and deeper. Furthermore, dust and dirt will be more noticeable because they will not reflect light.

Low Luster

A low luster hardwood floor is going to be much easier to keep clean. The floor will not reflect a lot of light; therefore, scratches will not show up readily, nor will dust. However, it will also be slightly more difficult to keep the floor looking clean. That’s because many people associate a shine with cleanliness. If the floor isn’t shiny, it might not look clean to some people. If you try to shine a low luster floor, you’ll likely just wear down the finish faster.

Middle Ground

The compromise between high luster and low luster could be a semi-gloss or a satin. Satin and semi-gloss are fairly moderate positions you could choose from. Typically, semi-gloss is near the middle but slightly on the side of gloss. Satin is in the middle but slightly on the side of matte. Either one of those will help you balance the benefits of high luster with the benefits of low luster. They’ll look fairly clean and modern while still hiding some dust and scratches. Furthermore, they’ll be easy to clean and make look clean.

Try out several different lusters on small areas before deciding on one.

What Can You Expect From Your Hardwood Floors Polyurethane?

Most modern hardwood floors, with the exception of a few, are finished with a layer of polyurethane. Polyurethane is a polymer that is suspended in a solvent. It is applied to the floor, and the solvent evaporates, leaving behind only the polymer. Essentially, it is a can of liquid plastic that is applied over your flooring. There are two basic kinds of polyurethane, oil-based and water-based. Each one is going to act differently immediately and over time. Here’s what will happen.

Immediate Effects

When you apply polyurethane to your stained floor, it will have a few immediate effects. Water-based polyurethane goes on fairly clear. It is also low odor. You’ll need to wait several hours before you can touch the polyurethane and even longer before you can walk on it. However, the most common visual effect is a deepening of the colors and the grain on the wood. If you choose a glossy polyurethane, it will shimmer and almost look wet. A matte water-based polyurethane is basically invisible once it’s dry.

An oil-based polyurethane is a little more dramatic. Most oil-based polyurethanes have a very slight amber hue. When you apply the polyurethane, you’ll notice that the floor becomes slightly tinted amber. That’s a very good way to deepen and enrich the colors of the floor.

Long-Term Effects

There are long-term effects to the polyurethane choices as well. Water-based polyurethane typically doesn’t last quite as long as oil-based polyurethane before it needs to be repaired. However, it maintains the same quality throughout the time that it is applied as long as you don’t let it get so scratched up that it becomes cloudy.

Oil-based polyurethane, on the other hand, will start to turn a deeper shade of amber. This yellowing is desirable for some people. It creates warmer colors on your floor and makes it seem a little more rustic. Others don’t like the yellowing.

There are also concerns about volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are chemicals that can vaporize at room temperature. The off-gassing can result in pollution or even health effects. Most polyurethanes are designed to have minimal VOCs. Oil-based polyurethanes sometimes have more VOCs than water-based, though. Over time, that could be a factor.

These are a few things to consider and to expect when applying polyurethane to your floor. You’ll need to reapply it every few years. Most flooring experts will say that a polyurethane coat lasts about 15 years.

Can Hardwood Flooring Be Green?

Hardwood flooring has gotten a reputation for not being very environmentally friendly. The main complaint is that hardwood flooring is made by chopping down trees, which contributes to further deforestation. That further deforestation threatens wetlands, natural habitats, and carbon sequestration. However, there are ways that you can still have a hardwood floor installation with a very minimal carbon footprint.

1 – Sustainable Hardwood

You’ll likely hear about sustainable hardwood, but what does that mean? It can mean many things. Typically, it means that the hardwood is cut from an area that can quickly replace the lost tree. For example, some hardwoods grow much faster than others. If a forest is quickly growing large trees, then cutting down trees for hardwood flooring will have a minimal impact.

Also, there are offsets. This could mean that the lumber company that cuts down a tree replaces that tree with a sapling. Some of them even plant two trees for each one they cut down.

2 – Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed hardwood floors are floors that are made from hardwood that has already been in use. The roof supports for an old barn, for example, can be milled into hardwood flooring planks. Also, an old hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished to be used as your hardwood floor. When properly maintained, wood will last for decades in great shape. That means that you can get a brand new floor without a single tree being chopped down.

3 – Stains and Finishes

One of the main concerns about hardwood flooring is actually the stain and the paint that is used. Oftentimes, they will employ volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can harm the environment. Fortunately, there are companies that sell low- or no-VOC products that will do the job just as well. Oftentimes, these products are water-based instead of oil-based and contain fewer harmful chemicals.

4 – Salvaged Wood Flooring

Salvaged wood flooring might sound like reclaimed wood, but it is actually different. In some situations, a tree might need to be salvaged. If a tree is diseased, dead, or endangering the surrounding area, it might be chopped down. In other cases, some trees are cut down to allow other trees to grow unimpeded. When those trees are used for their wood, it is often called salvaged wood. Since they were going to be cut down anyway, it carries a much smaller ecological impact.

These four options can make your hardwood flooring more sustainable and less harmful to the environment.

What Exactly Are Reclaimed Hardwood Floors?

If you’ve been in the market for hardwood flooring, you’ve likely seen options for “reclaimed” hardwood flooring. It has become trendy for many different people. Those who have ecological concerns like reclaimed wood because no new trees have to be chopped down to create it. Stylistically, it provides a classic, antique feel even to new constructions. However, you might be wondering what exactly it is.

Reclaimed Hardwood Is Old Wood Repurposed

In its simplest sense, reclaimed hardwood is old wood that has been moved from its original use. That could mean that you simply take old hardwood flooring from one building and install it in a different building. This is the simplest and fastest type of reclaimed hardwood flooring. Very little crafting needs to be done beyond what would normally be done to install a new floor. However, there are also some more exotic hardwood flooring options as well.

In the past, many old growth trees were felled for lumber. Now, that lumber would be very expensive and reserved for high-end applications. Before industries had a good grasp on how much they were deforesting, old growth wood could be used for barn doors, ceiling joists, and other basic uses. That means that the frame of an old house or an old barn might be made of 100-year old teak. That would make an absolutely gorgeous hardwood floor. So, the manufacturers will buy that wood and treat it like new lumber. They’ll mill it into hardwood flooring and sell it as reclaimed wood.

Why Is It Desirable?

Different people have different reasons for preferring reclaimed hardwood. From a green point of view, the wood is desirable because it repurposes existing. No new trees have to be felled. That helps to fight deforestation around the world. From a design point of view, reclaimed wood is great because it looks incredible. Many hardwoods have oils that tend to darken the wood over time. When combined with weathering and handling, they develop a patina that looks antique and attractive. It’s the kind of visual appeal that you cannot replicate even with modern technology; only time can create the look of antique teak wood, for example.

Where Do You Find It?

There are two basic ways to find reclaimed hardwood. You can buy from a manufacturer who has bought it already, or you can source it yourself. If you know of local construction happening, the construction companies will sometimes discard the old wood for anyone who wants it. That wood could be great hardwood that you have turned into flooring.